After Vietnam Raises Concern, Khmer Krom Community Resolute

A day after Hanoi issued a strongly worded statement calling on the Cambodian government to take measures to prevent anti-Vietnam demonstrations from souring relations between the neighbors, the group that has organized a series of recent demonstrations promised more protests at the start of September if its demands are not met.

The Khmer Kampuchea Krom Community—led by opposition CNRP standing-committee member Thach Setha—promised Friday to continue demonstrations outside the Vietnamese Embassy in two weeks if it refuses to apologize for controversial remarks by a diplomat over historical claims to the Kampuchea Krom region.

“If there is not a resolution with the [Vietnamese] Foreign Ministry, we will hold a massive demonstration at the beginning of September, but now we are awaiting the results from Cambodia’s Foreign Ministry,” Mr. Setha said.

Mr. Setha called off a three-day demonstration—in which a small group of protesters burned a Vietnamese flag—on Wednesday, saying that he would give Cambodian and Vietnamese diplomats a chance to resolve the situation before resuming protests.

A spokesman for the Vietnamese Foreign Affairs Ministry, Le Hai Binh, issued a statement to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency on Thursday decrying the demonstrations and calling for action from Phnom Penh.

“Vietnam strongly protests the fact that Khmer Kampuchea Krom activists held an illegal protest and set a Vietnamese flag on fire in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh,” the report quotes the statement as saying. “Vietnam urges Cambodia to strictly handle these activities following law and have effective measures to prevent the similar incident from happening again.”

On June 6, Vietnamese Embassy first counselor Tran Van Thong said in a radio interview that Vietnam controlled Kampuchea Krom, literally “lower Cambodia,” long before it was officially ceded by colonial France in 1949. He said that those who believed otherwise were wrong.

However, more than a dozen student groups and hundreds of monks have banded together demanding an apology and retraction, arguing that the area historically belonged to Cambodia and at no point did leaders of the country consent to its transfer to Vietnam.

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